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Stocks boosted by two economic reports

Trulia co-founder and chief executive Pete Flint, right,

Trulia co-founder and chief executive Pete Flint, right, talks with trader Thomas Kay, center, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange last month. A series of economic indicators this week will culminate with the September jobs report on Oct. 5. (Sept. 20, 2012) Credit: AP

A pair of encouraging economic reports helped nudge the stock market higher Wednesday. Measures of business activity in the service sector and job growth last month came in better than economists had expected.

The market's gains were held in check by a slump in energy stocks and Hewlett-Packard's 13 percent plunge. In a meeting with analysts and investors, Meg Whitman, HP's chief executive, predicted weak earnings and sales for the foreseeable future.

The Dow Jones rose 12.25 points to close at 13,494.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.36 percent to 1,450.99.

"The price action today seems boring, but the economic data is pretty strong," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.49 percent to 3,135.23.

Trading could remain calm this week while investors look ahead to the government's monthly jobs report Friday and a new round of quarterly corporate earnings reports next week.

Economists expect the unemployment rate will have edged up to 8.2 percent in September from 8.1 percent in August. And the unofficial start to the earnings season starts Tuesday when the aluminum company Alcoa posts its results.

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